Hooray for indie games! Without them, our only source of gaming fun would be the huge triple-A titles that rarely deviate into subject matter that might be considered risky (read: innovative). Indie games, on the other hand, are generally smaller and more original, built by developers who don’t mind taking a punt at an idea that hasn’t been seen before. Like the thriving independent movie scene, indie games both compliment and improve on our own industry.
That’s the theory, anyway. The reality is a little bit different: the indie scene is flooded with just as many clones, knockoffs, and imitations as the retail market, generally in the form of match-three puzzle games and the like. Thank goodness for developers like Moonpod, then: rather than traveling a safe path, they are determined to make their games live up to the ideal set out in the previous paragraph. With Mr. Robot, Moonpod have crafted a game that feels at once familiar and fresh, providing a gameplay experience that – in spite of a few flaws – will certainly provide you with a lot of entertainment.
Essentially, Mr. Robot is an isometric puzzle game with periodic diversions in the form of Final Fantasy-esque battle sequences. The game tells the story of Asimov, a fairly junior robot on board a starship full of frozen humans on their way to an unknown destination. Unfortunately, things take a turn for the worse when the ship’s computer, HEL, goes bad – as usually happens when super-intelligent computers are left to their own devices. With the help of a number of other robots, you’ll need to get to the bottom of what’s going on, and try to protect the helpless humans on board the ship.
It’s a fairly simple premise, but an effective one – and it’s brought to life by characters that are anything but robotic. In fact, the story becomes one of the primary motivating factors in the game, always encouraging you to get to the next plot point to see what happens.
The other things that’ll keep you engaged are the puzzles themselves. You control Asimov either with the mouse or the arrow keys. Whichever setup you choose might take a few minutes to become accustomed to, due to the isometric viewpoint and somewhat slippery controls. Once you get the hang of things, though, you’ll be able to concentrate on jumping over bodies of water, pushing blocks around, operating cranes, and outsmarting enemy robots.
As you travel from room to room of the spaceship, the puzzles will start to ramp up in difficulty, and more and more enemies will be wandering around looking to make your life extremely unpleasant. While Asimov has no offensive capabilities in the real world, things are quite different when the ghost hack system comes into play. Ghost hack sequences are essentially like jacking in to the Matrix – you’ll travel through a computer system, searching for the main core so that you can shut it down. However, standing in your way are enemy ghosts who engage you in a turn-based combat system straight out of a console RPG. Asimov, along with up to three other robots in his party, must battle against a host of various bad guys, using a range of attacks and special abilities. Generally, these battles provide a welcome break from the rest of the game, rarely becoming onerous or repetitive thanks to the relatively small number of times you’re forced to enter this mode (at least compared to other RPGs).
The graphics really deserve to be mentioned. They’re fairly simple, but extremely well crafted – you can tell a lot of love went into making them, which is also true of the game as a whole. The character models, lighting effects, and the water in particular make the game really easy on the eye. Overall, the game has a level of polish that is usually reserved for retail games with a budget of millions; and in its own way, Mr. Robot exceeds a fair number of them in this regard.
Having said all that, Mr. Robot isn’t for everyone. If you’re looking for an action-filled experience, you’re obviously not going to find it here. It certainly took a while for it to grow on me, but once I had figured out the gameplay mechanics and become immersed in the storyline, it was very easy to keep going back to the game. In the end, if you’re looking for a fun little experience at a budget price, you can’t get much better than Mr. Robot.